Overcoming anxiety and depression in cancer
There is an increasing recognition that psychological issues are a primary concern for cancer patients, both during and after treatment. Anxiety, depression, fear of recurrence and other psychological concerns need to be addressed to maintain quality of life.
Did you know?
Approximately half of all patients with cancer experience emotional difficulties.1
Adjustment disorder is a common psychological complication, with individuals suffering from depressed mood, anxiety, lack of life satisfaction, hopelessness and/or loss of self-esteem.2
Non-specific distress and anxiety are also very common in cancer patients. Distress is the sum of multiple psychological, social, and spiritual factors. If severe enough, it can interfere with the patient's ability to deal effectively with the illness, its symptoms and the complications of treatment.
Psychological issues may impact behaviors that are critical for cancer survivors.3,4 In addition, survivors who have clinical depression have a two times greater risk of death from any cause, when compared to survivors who don’t have clinical depression.5
Unfortunately, research suggests that emotional needs of cancer patients are not met as they should be. For example, a survey of bone marrow transplant survivors found that half of those who reported feeling distressed said they had not received any treatment for their emotional needs.6
What can we do about it
If you are currently experiencing anxiety or depression after a cancer diagnosis, don't put on a "happy face" if you don't really feel this way. Share your concerns with your cancer care team.
Connect with others who listen and can help with the practical aspects of dealing with cancer. Asking family members and loved ones for this kind of support may help reduce your distress and the distress of those who care about you.
Consult with your doctor before commencing an exercise program. As much as possible, exercise regularly for at least 150 minutes per week at moderate intensity.
Try different behavioural techniques to relieve anxiety and depression, such as deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation.
Engage in activities you really enjoy. Creative arts and music are good examples.
Go see a clinical psychologist or counselor.
Take time for spiritual reflection and prayer.
As more research is completed, there is an increasing recognition that psychological issues are primary concerns for cancer patients during and post-treatment. Several interventions have been shown to alleviate psychological distress, anxiety and depression.
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What does it take to thrive emotionally?Did you Know?
The use of antidepressants has doubled in The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries between 2000 and 2015 with Australia having the second highest level of consumption in the world (OECD 2017).Discover more facts
The Live More Project brings together scientifically-proven strategies from Neuroscience, Psychology and Lifestyle Medicine into a fun, experiential and life-enhancing program. Developed and presented by Dr. Darren Morton, the Live More Project is helping people improve their health and happiness around the world.Learn more
The content provided is intended for educational purposes only. The content is not to replace the medical diagnosis, recommendation and medical advice of health professionals for those who struggle with depression or other mental health-related issues. Neither is this site a comprehensive guide for therapy and improvement on mental health. Simple solutions will help but if things are too overwhelming, ask for help, speak to a mental health professional and find stress management programs. If you are under long term depression, extreme stress or if you currently have strong suicidal thoughts, consult a mental health professional for intervention. One does not have to battle on their own. Seeking professional advice can assist in the management of heavy stress.Learn more